What I learned from the humble fruit fly

Picture of fruit fly

I have so much to learn from you, drosophila.

[Note to self: Never commit to blog post topic without a written draft. Drosophila? What was I thinking?!]

Imagine being the only one in a room who does not know what a drosophila is. That was me a few weeks back. Oh, I was so ashamed. But I got over it.

Yes, I was hanging with Drs. Hound and a few of their neuroscientist friends–there were a lot of IQ points in one room–and the topic of fruit flies arose. I had not realized how much one can learn from this tiny being. Turns out because their life spans are so short–approximately 2 weeks if I heard correctly–they are perfect subjects for all sorts of important research.

I learned, for example, that approximately 20% of fruit flies’ energy is consumed by their teeny tiny brains. Although it is a far reach to assume the same is true for humans, let’s assume so for the sake of argument. If indeed 20% of my caloric intake is consumed by my brain, it is no wonder that: a) I was ravenous the day following our media event on Monday; and that b) I could barely move for a few days after, I was so wiped.

I doubt you’re wondering why I was hungry. I’m always hungry. But I was all the more famished, I know now, because I had used so much energy to think. Yes, I had to construct coherent answers to insightful questions on the spot while I made sure to look at the camera, tried not to say anything utterly inappropriate as is my nature, and fretted about how much I looked like I had leukemia that day. After the recording was over, I spent the rest of the day thinking about how I might have answered the questions more incisively. No wonder I was ravenous the next day. Imagine all the calories I had burned thinking.

My thought-induced caloric deficit surely explains my exhaustion the next few days. I was catatonic on my couch most of that time watching Food Network reruns. (Border Security was not on.) I did not go anywhere or do anything. I was even too tired to nap.

But there’s more. On that fateful night, surrounded by really smart people, I also learned that fruit flies who are bred to be smarter do not live as long. Yes, dumber flies live longer.

This information raises many additional questions. How the heck do scientists measure a fruit fly’s intelligence? I’ve done a lot of IQ testing in my time, and I can’t imagine testing materials small enough for a fruit fly to manipulate. Also, I don’t speak fruit fly. Kudos to the scientists for overcoming these barriers.

If we put the measurement challenges aside, the theory does enlighten me about my own experience. Recall my recent treatise about how unsmart I am according to current IQ protocols. Perhaps I needn’t worry about dying young after all. Yes, I could be here for a while yet.

There are two lessons to be learned from this post. First, for those of you trying to lose weight in the New Year, don’t restrict your eating, just increase your thinking. And second, only the bright die young, so don’t think too much.



2 thoughts on “What I learned from the humble fruit fly

  1. Yeah! I’m going to sit down with my favorite bon bons, cancel my gym membership and start playing Soduko – can’t wait to shed those 20 lbs as my brain tries to solve those pesky little puzzles.


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